kith

This is not a lisping kiss to give a cousin; it is not even the cousin whom you kiss, unless he or she be a cousin in name only. This word is now wedded to kin, but it will never be a blood relation; rather, it is someone known (not biblically), friends, those homeys who hang with your kin, or even just your countrymen. Older versions of the word referred to the country rather than the men, or simply to knowledge of or about something. It comes from Old English cyð, which is related to couth. It’s also related to kithe. (Wot, no one has kithed that word to you? It means “make known, manifest.”) With its frank, blocky k to start and its soft, sly or silly, almost mystic voiceless th to finish, it is a word of both sexes, and one that could have been coined by Tolkien or Lucas. Some may fear to take this word out alone, lest the seeming sound of a kiss lead to blushing, but it is a word of pith for those with whom you keep kit, be they Keiths or Kittys. When next you sing “Good tidings we bring to you and your kin,” do add the kith in.

One response to “kith

  1. I’ve run across “kythe” in Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wind in the Door but have never seen it anywhere else. It’s relationship to “kith” should have been obvious but I missed it completely and am glad you pointed it out!

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